Brushing case lugs by satin wheel, emery file, rubber block, or abrasive film?

Discussion in 'Watch Repair' started by Paul_S, Mar 27, 2017.

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  1. Paul_S

    Paul_S Registered User
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    Mar 27, 2015
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    Another question about brushing, if you don't mind.

    When a watch mixes brushed and polished surfaces---like brushed lugs and polished sides (e.g., vintage Role oyster case) or vice-versa (many Seiko cases)---you could brush a few ways.

    One way is with a satin wheel on a bench polisher. The other way is by hand, such as steel wool, emery files, rubber abrasive blocks, and abrasive papers and films.

    A satin brushing wheel gives an even, consistent grain that will match the metal bracelet (which is usually brushed via wheel), but it is harder to control for complex contours (at least at my level of experience)

    On the other (ahem) hand, the hand methods offer better control for complex surfaces with much less taping, but the grain seems less consistent

    How do those of you who refinish a lot of cases do it? As always, any advice is much appreciated.
     
  2. glenhead

    glenhead Registered User
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    Nov 15, 2009
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    Wheel on a bench polisher, and lots and lots and lots of practice.

    Glen
     
  3. Paul_S

    Paul_S Registered User
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    Thanks, Glen. Any tips for a beginner? :)
     
  4. glenhead

    glenhead Registered User
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    Lots of light is crucial. Get a stainless steel case and bracelet you can practice on. Polish the piece to a high polish, then destroy (wink) the polish with the satin finish. It's best to use a variable-speed polishing motor, and run the satin wheel at a very slow speed. For a linear pattern run the wheel in one direction, for a smooth satin keep it in constant turning motion. There are (at least) three different grades of satin finishing wheels - coarse, medium, and fine - and each produces a "deeper" or "shallower" satin. Polish, satin, polish, satin, repeat until you're comfortable. Experimentation and practice will get you there.

    Glen
     
  5. Al J

    Al J Registered User

    Jul 21, 2009
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    I do a fair bit of the brushed work by hand personally. Some surfaces are not conducive to doing these at the polishing motor, but it depends on the kind of cases you normally work on. So hand methods using abrasive sticks, cratex, etc., all these abrasives have consistent grain in them, so it's not the abrasive that is giving you an uneven finish. The only thing that will give you a less consistent finish is the way you are moving those abrasives across the surface. The first thing I do is study the grain direction on relation to how the case contours move, and plan how I will move the abrasive across the surface to create the same finish - sometimes if you follow the natural contours of the case the grain ends up going in the wrong direction. Then it's just a matter of selecting the right grit to get the same level of coarseness in the finished texture.

    Refinishing is a skill like any other in watchmaking, so just like you didn't learn the aspects of movement servicing overnight, refinishing takes time to perfect as well. If you were at a certain school they would give you a large stainless steel hex nut that you would dent all over with a ball peen hammer, then your task would be to make it perfect in geometry with a perfect shiny finish on it. Frustrating work, but intended to teach the basic skills that will be applied to watch cases. So my advice is to get some material or old cases, and try different methods to find what you feel most comfortable with.

    My focus in refinishing is to bring back the contrast between those brushed an polished surfaces, and not necessarily in removing every single dent or scratch. I want to make it look as good as it can, but not sacrifice a lot of material in the process, or dull the sharp edges on the case (I see far tool many cases that have spent too much time and a bench motor). That drives the methods that I use, so hand work is a big part of my refinishing, because my customers tend to be very sensitive to shape changes on the case.

    Keep working at it! :thumb:

    Cheers, Al
     
  6. glenhead

    glenhead Registered User
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    Excellent comments and advice, Al. I take the same approach to dents and scratches and edges. Paul, another area to be super-cautious with is springbar holes - being too aggressive with polishing can smear them oval.

    Glen
     
  7. Paul_S

    Paul_S Registered User
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    Mar 27, 2015
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    Many thanks, Glen and Al! These are great ideas.

    I have a heap of stainless steel cases that are the test subjects for my endless polishing experiments. I'll try these wheel and hand-work suggestions this week.

    Metalworking is indeed its own complicated and fascinating craft.
     
  8. WATCHBREAKER

    WATCHBREAKER Registered User

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    I use a Flex shaft, and so does every other watchmaker i know. cratex wheel on it. you can use a dremel too. That's pretty much standard practice around here on rolex lugs. sometimes I will use a more aggressive Buff stick on the presidents, because they came from the factory with a heavier brushed finish. it takes lots of practice. I never liked the results from using a big satin wheel on a polishing motor, it likes to round off the lug edges. a smaller more controlled cratex will make them nice and crisp.
     
  9. Paul_S

    Paul_S Registered User
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    I do have a flex shaft and some rubberized wheels. What's a good grit level for brushing a Rolex case with them?
     
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